Microsoft Global Learning Connection Days

Nov 10th and 11th were celebrated as Microsoft Global Learning Connection Days. The title has changed from Skypeathon. Students and educators were encouraged to connect with others across the world, giving them opportunities to learn from and with each other.

A number of my ICT classes and students were involved in these days. As we are near the end of our school year, senior classes were participating in or preparing for exams, so my involvement is not as good as it normally be. Following are some of our global activities.

Year 7 ICT students are collaborating on a Flipgrid with a class from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Their topic is “Where would you go?” reflecting on the fact that there are 7 continents made up of 195 countries. Students record responses to what country they would like to go to, the distance from where they currently live and something interesting that makes them want to visit this country.

Meeting a Minecraft Education developer at lunchtime

Students from across the school were given the opportunity to learn from Anthony “Sunken City” Cloudy one of the developers of Minecraft Education. He spoke from Houston, Texas and currently works on Minecraft: Education Edition, developing custom gameplay features and crafting tools that empower content creators to teach hard-to-grasp subject matter in innovative ways.

Anthony was a passionate, colourful and inspiring presenter.  30 minutes was spent using MS Teams talking to students from countries across the world, including Vietnam, India, Croatia etc He answered their numerous questions. He encouraged students to learn coding, work in teams to problem solve and not to be disappointed in failing as this can actually lead to success. Some of the failures in using code in Minecraft have actually resulted in things like eg creeping vines.

Year 9/10 students used MS Teams to connect with Jane Mackerell, the K-12 Education Lead for Microsoft Australia. Jane is based in Sydney. She spoke to them about the use of Virtual Reality in Schools, the role of technology in education and was interested in learning from the students in their use of technology.

Were you involved in this day? What did you do?

Remembrance Day 2020

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we will remember them”.

Each year in Australia, we commemorate the end of World War I with a special service at the various Shrines of Remembrance. A minute’s silence is held throughout the country at 11am on this date. However, it was different this year due to COVID-19. Crowds could not gather in Victoria. However, COVID-19 did not deter us from remembering, nor did the thunderstorms and heavy rain prevent our school from holding a special assembly.

Originally, a small group of students and our Assistant Principal were to go the Special Reflections space in Hawkesdale to hold the service where we would normally all be gathered. Mr Ralph was going to use his mobile phone to hotspot a MS Teams meeting back to school so that we could all participate. However, the thunderstorm activity and heavy rains prevented this. Instead, the students who were to speak and Mr Ralph met in the front foyer of the school. Individual classrooms logged into MS Teams and listened to the speeches, poems, Last Post and Reveille. The minute silence was held and the National Anthem sung from across the school.

The school flag was lowered accordingly and a school wreath set at the flag pole. (These students did get wet from the rain!)

It was still a special event that could be participated in, in a different way.

A roadmap back to school

In regional Victoria, our COVID-19 statistics have improved greatly. As of today, October 4th, we have one new active case and a total of 3 active cases compared with Melbourne which has 12 new cases today. In order to return to school, regional Victoria had to enter Step three of the steps back to COVID normal.

Tomorrow, we commence term 4 after a 2 week Spring break. All primary school children in regional Victoria will return to school after participating in remote learning over the last 6 months. However, only VCE and VCAL (year 12 students) can return to secondary schools. On Wednesday, VCE students will complete the GAT- the General Achievement Test which should have been sat back in early June. As we are a prep to year 12 school, primary students cannot return to school until Thursday 8th June, in order to ensure that year 12 students are not prevented from sitting the GAT. VCE formal exams will commence 5 weeks into Term 4. These have been delayed due to the impact of remote learning on their studies.

All secondary students from years 7 to 12 will return for face to face classes on Monday 12th October. However, in Melbourne, VCE and VCAL students will follow the same [pattern, whilst foundation to year 2 and years 10-12 students will return to school from October 12th. Years 3 to 9 will continue with remote learning in Melbourne.

It will be interesting to see how students react upon return to school and how we, as teachers cope. Temperature checks will take place for each staff member and student and all students above the age of 12 will need to wear masks. The rules for masks have now changed. No longer are face shields, scarves and bandanas able to be worn. Masks must be at least 2 layered and must cover the mouth and nose. Face shields can be worn, but masks must be worn underneath.

We are the only state in Australia required to wear face masks and as it isnt part of culture, many people are finding this a difficult request, especially in the country areas where COVID numbers are non-existent or extremely low. Now that warmer weather is on its way, people are wondering how they will cope in our extreme heat.

Virtual Ice Breakers – Mystery Sounds

One of the posts on this padlet suggested doing a Mystery Sound game as a virtual ice breaker with remote classes.  As this week is our last week of term 3, just prior to a 2 week spring break, I wanted to do something fun with the students. Mystery sounds sounded good.

Below are the sounds that I chose to play to the students. They will put their guesses in the MS Teams chat. I will share the screen, choosing the share sound option. However, after having chosen the sounds, I realised that  it owuld not work as screen sharing also displayed the name of the sound. Instead, I used a premade youtube clip. (See below). Students enjoyed the activity. It took approximately 40 mins to complete.

The sounds that I chose are below:

Youtube Mystery Sounds

  1. Bubbles
  2. A sweeping broom
  3. Opening a bottle
  4. Wind
  5. Airplane
  6. Fly spray
  7. Electric fan
  8. Open can
  9. Lawn mower
  10. Microwave
  11. Keys
  12. Whistling keys
  13. Vaccum cleaner
  14. Breaking dishes
  15. Cash register
  16. Computer keyboard
  17. Chainsaw
  18. Scratched record
  19. Fire drill sound
  20. Fire truck

Wellness Wednesday

It has been 6 long weeks of remote learning. In our first lockdown, students missed school for over 10 weeks (but this included a two week autumn break). In regional Victoria, we returned to school at the end of term 2 but three weeks into term 3, we were locked down again and returned to remote learning. There are many positives that have come out of online learning but it is hard work and we all miss the face to face interactions (even if we are in masks)!

To encourage our students and staff to have a day away from their screens, we were all given the oppoturnity to enjoy a Wellness Wednesday. We were encouraged to participate in activities that we like to do to help us destress. A MS Team was created, with channels for staff and each year level to share photos, videos, writing etc of how they enjoyed filling in the day.

It was a beautiful spring day, with the temperatures reaching 22 degrees. It was forecast to be cloudy, but the sun shone in the afternoon. I managed to get a lot done. First on my list was a haircut as I hadnt had one for nearly 6 months and that was just prior to the first lock down. Many hairdressers have been closed due to COVID-19 but I managed to find one that could cut my hair. We have to wear masks everywhere now, so it was interesting taking part in muffled conversations and watching the hairdresser avoid cutting my elastic ties on the mask!

During the day, I picked and bunched flowers, planted seedlings and weeded the vegetable garden. Upon leaving Warrnambool, where I got my haircut, I stopped at our beautiful Killarney beach to go for a brief walk. The ocean was a beautiful blue and waves sported white caps. Although there were a few cars in the park, there were no signs of the people (who must have been out walking).

Students are now sharing what they did – from gardening, climbing trees, computer games, drawing, painting, playing sport (solo) etc. It was such a successful day and a wonderful day.

The Student Voice – Q and A with Roma Britnell, MP

Schools in our district were offered an online Q and A session with Roma Britnell, MP through the Education facility of the Parliament of Victoria. A session had been booked with the year 8 ICT class. As the original date was in the first weeks of Remote Learning round 2, it was changed to Monday 7th September. This meant that it was just a few days after parliament sat to debate extending the State of Emergency powers to 6 months and was the day after the road maps were announced for Metropolitan and Regional Victoria.

Initially students found it difficult to think of questions to ask. Many were nervous to even ask questions using the microphone. However, due to the media coverage of the past few days, the topics of conversation centred around COVID-19. Roma is not only our Member of Parliament but is also a nurse, a mother and a dairy farmer. It was interesting to hear her say that she would regularly corona virus test the dairy herd. Once the students relaxed and understood that she was genuinely interested in their voice, the questions started to come through quickly and robust discussions took place. Students even stayed online during their lunch hour to continue the interactions. Following are some of the questions that were asked of her:-

  • How is covid going and will there be a vaccination anytime soon?
  • Why are there so many arguments in Parliament?
  • Will the restrictions ease and what was it like at the meeting when you voted to extend the State of Emergency by 6 months. 
  • Were you in parliament when the vote was taken to extend the State of Emergency. How did it feel?
  • What made you go into politics?
  • As a former nurse, what do you think is more important, the health and wellbeing of Victorians, or the economy? Or is there a way of balancing them, given the more people die, and the worst it is for the economy? 
  • are you handling covid , wearing the mask and do u hope that it will die down soon
  • What are your thoughts on the Premier,  Daniel Andrews recent announcement about the road maps
  • Would the n95 mask be better than the disposable version
  • Do you think that an average of 5 cases across the whole of regional Victoria is achievable over a 2 week period?
  • As a Victorian what how do you feel about the extension of the state of emergency?
  • What is your view on the hotel quarantine, who fault do you believe it was?
  • In parliament who many people could be inside and is it mandatory to wear a mask inside
  • How do you feel about the football finals being held in Queensland and them getting special treatment and a better hotel than the hotel quarantine.       
  • Do you think that the football shouldn’t be on due to the virus?
  • Why did you chose to be a member of parliament?

A sincere thank you to Ms Roma Britnell for giving up her time and speaking with our students, showing them the human face of a politician, answering their questions not only from a politician’s point of view but from that of a Victorian citizen and speaking to them in a very relaxed and informal manner.

To show how popular this session was, one of the student’s sister’s who is a year 10 student, asked whether they could do something similar.

Webex was used to connect us. Using webconferencing that enables a chat feature gives every student a voice and Roma watch the chat to look for and answer further questions.

Updated school routine for COVID19

Schools in Victoria are back to remote learning. Regional areas are back into their fifth week for the second round of remote learning and Melbourne schools are into their eighth week. Fortunately, our COVID19 cases are starting to decline from the high of 700 reported a day several weeks ago and now down to 70 new cases today. Our deaths were also down today so there is hope that we may come out of our lockdown – regional Victorians only have four reasons to leave home – essential shopping, care, education/work and medical reasons. Melbourne citizens though are really locked down. Only one person from a household can go shopping to supermarkets etc, there is a curfew from 8pm to 6am, they can only exercise for one hour per day and cannot travel further than 5kms from home. They must work from home unless special permits are granted. Cafes and restaurants are open for take aways only. The Australian army has now been called in to help patrol the curfew and ensure that restrictions are adhered to.

We are the only state with severe restrictions as the other Australian states have contained the virus successfully and their numbers are nil or low. All states have closed their borders to Victorians and we are currently looked down upon by our fellow Australians. It is sad, as Melbourne has regularly won the title of the World’s Most Liveable City but it certainly is not now.

Students of essential workers and vulnerable students may attend school but must fill in a weekly form to gain permission from the Principal. A skeleton staff remains at school to care for these students. Last week we were granted special permission to bring our VCE students back to school to complete SACs (assessment tasks) and to conduct practical science experiments. I went back to school each day for the week and spent time with my small VCE classes and supervised their SACs. However, there have been changes to our routines. All people who come to school must now be temperature checked and must wear a mask. Students and staff line up to have their temperature checked. This will take a considerable amount of time when we all return.

Here is the altered routine:-

  • Students sanitise hands before catching the bus (the essential workers children and those from vulnerable families)
  • All students from 12 years up wear masks
  • The bus driver has three clear seats between him and passengers.
  • Students sanitise their hands when getting off the bus.
  • They enter the school office and get their temperatures checked. These are recorded by office staff.
  • Only staff and students are allowed on school grounds. Any other people on the grounds must have express permission.
  • Our receptionist and librarian now have protective plastic guards between them and people.
  • Students are socially distanced where possible. It is compulsory for staff to socially distance.
  • Teachers do not have to wear masks in the classroom when teaching but they must be worn at all other times. The exception being when eating and drinking

I laughed when the students told me that they take as long as they can to eat so they dont have to wear their masks. Today is the first day of spring, so we are looking forward to warmer days and increased outdoor living, where it is thought that the virus cannot be so infectious.

On Sunday, our premier will announce our roadmap out of our current lockdowns. It will be gradual easements and there will be two roadmaps – one for Melbourne and one for regional areas (where the virus is not so prevalent).

Icebreakers used this week for Remote Learning

It is always good to make the students feel comfortable before they begin formal classwork with virtual icebreakers. I find this important even for my senior students. Here are some quick easy starts to the lessons that I tried this week:-

  • Playedmusic as students enter the virtual classroom Some ideas suggested by my Business Management PLN include Shannon Noll Shine and Bruce Springsteen Born to Run (suggested as being COVID applicable!) or give students the chance to suggest which songs could be played. We use MS Teams and it works well in there. Make sure that you when you share your screen you check the box to include system audio
  • Using the chat, get the students to tell you how they are feeling in an emoji, or what is the weather like where you are in an emoji.
    weather in an emoji
  • In the chat, upload an image showing the colour of the top that you are wearing (do not use text)
    what colour top are you wearing

Interactive activities, this week included:-

Show n Tell with year 7

Zara showed us the chickens that she hatched, shared their names and discussed how she looked after them. She also showed us the masks that she has been sewing.

Would You Rather with years 8-10?

We played the game of Would You Rather……? I shared some questions eg Would you rather swim in a pool of nutella or a pool of honey. Students replied in the chat, Then selected students would use audio to tell us why they chose their option.

They then had to think of three Would You Rather? questions, add them to a MS Form and embed the result as a post on their blogs. See my instructions.

I shall add links on my blog to each of their posts for all students in the class to answer. They will then look at the results and graphs that Forms shows in responses. This activity was highly engaging to the students and they were all keen to make their surveys in MS Forms.

Remote learning 2.0 – Week 1

year 8 indi cake

Indi shows her sister’s birthday cake (top middle)

We are now into the second week of Remote Learning, round 2. Having returned to school for 7 weeks with a 2 week winter holiday break it came as a shock to learn that country Victoria was to join its Melbourne counterparts in returning to teaching and learning from home.

One day was given to enable teachers and schools to prepare for this second round. We try and follow our normal timetable, but are constantly reminded to not expect too much work or homework from the middle years students and younger ones. Although parents were happy with the last remote learning (we use MS Teams), many stated that the students had little time for breaks and that they were on their computer screens too much. Our year 9/10 cohort were the most difficult to engage.

This morning, the whole year 9/10 ICT class were online, were interacting and appeared quite confident in coping with remote learning again. It was the first time, I have had them for remote learning as they were at school last Monday and had a student free day Tuesday so that teachers could prepare. They are the 2 days that I have them.

I tried to make the lesson as interactive as possible. It went like this:

  • shared an emoji in the chat to reflect on how they were feeling. (most were quite happy, a couple were sleepy)
  • added a msg in the chat re the weather (which ranged from foggy, cloudy to sunny) and to share what was the best part of their weekend. We are in lock down so they cannot leave their homes readily but most seemed to have filled it in ok.
  • talked about masks using the chat- what was hard about wearing them and what was good about wearing them.
  • played a kahoot on Australia. This is fairly bandwidth heavy so some of them could not access kahoot or got bumped out. However 13 of the 16 students stayed on to play

Year 8 – we did similar activities but instead of the Kahoot, we looked at their blog posts and surveys on Two Truths and a Lie. Students had used MS Forms to create the survey. Each student shared their screen, talked through the results and stated which one f the three statments was a lie. One of my shyest students used the microphone for the first time. See their Two Truths and a Lie. (Students enjoyed creating the Forms).



Sharing the masks that this student was sewing

Year 7 – again we followed similar introductory activities, but instead of the Kahoot, we looked at students blog posts that were written sharing their reflections on wearing masks and remote learning. One of the girls used her video camera to show the masks she has been making, and another showed her three chickens that she had hatched in an incubator. She was given the eggs for her birthday.


Three week old chickens

You can read some of their reflections on their blogs.

  1. Masks and Remote Learning Round 2 Cassie
  2. Masks and Remote Learning Aiden
  3. Masks and Remote Learning  Cody
  4. Masks and Remote Learning Round 2 Jamie
  5. Covid-19 News Lauren
  6. Covid-19 in Victoria Sahara

Remote Learning Round 2

Today, we start round 2 of remote learning. Victoria is going through a second wave for COVID19 and numbers testing positive is ranging from 400 to 600 new cases each day. 25% of people who have tested positive are going to work. So Melbourne has gone to stage 4 restrictions with a night curfew and only essential service businesses now open. In country Victoria where I live cases are few – in fact only 1 active case in my Moyne shire and 1 active case in Warrnambool where I go shopping.

VCE students were attending school throughout Victoria, for the first three weeks of term3. All other students in Melbourne were at home learning remotely. In country Victoria all students were still at school. However, that has now changed, and all students including all VCE students are back to learning from home.

Our city colleagues were given one week, student free, to prepare for remote learning at the beginning of this term but when the news came out that country Victoria would also be learning from home, country teachers were given one day to plan for remote learning as a student free day!

In the first round of remote learning, staff and students tended to be anxious, not knowing much about COVID-19 and what its impact might be but there was also some confidence as we were restricted in our travels and activities so that the spread might not be great. After 10 weeks, all students returned to school – week 7, term 2. Students were pleased to be back to see their friends and most reported that they preferred to have face to face classes.

The second time round, staff and students showed less optimism, less excitement about embracing a different learning journey, a lot of fear and doubt over what our future now holds. Our COVID-19 numbers are rising, there is a lot of community transmission, people are not obeying the law as they should and we are asking “what if this does not work?”. None of the other Australian states have shown such high figures. Any outbreaks have often been caused by Victorians travelling across the border, legally or illegally.

It was with far more despondent hearts that staff and students left the school at the close of Monday, with the possibility of an even bleaker future. We all tend to be weary.